Re: Bible readers prefer ‘word-for-word’ translations

LifeWay ResearchRon, thanks for the heads-up. I’d be very skeptical of this research project until more information is available. The LifeWay report (link here) only says the research was demographically representative, but did not state of which population. One suspects it may represent the Baptists more than others, since LifeWay is an official Southern Baptist entity.

I found it ironic that though a majority wanted language simpler to understand, such a choice goes against the word-for-word preference. Nor does the research, it was noted, reflect people’s buying habits.

Two flaws in the language of the research: One, the language is slanted; there is no such thing as a word-for-word translation. Only one example is needed to show this to be true: See my note, “No version is literal: mouth to mouth.” This is a mirage, set up to disparage other types of versions.

Two, as most writers in this area recognize, it’s not an either-or option; translations lie on a continuum (example). The research apparently approached it as if it were a exclusive choice. If people really wanted word-for-word, the interlinears would be selling like hotcakes. (The research did point out that people didn’t know what translation philosophy was followed by the versions they owned.) Long have I encouraged people to use a variety of versions along the continuum to take advantage of what each one offers.

Evidence of tendentiousness in the research comes from no one less than the director of LifeWay Research in a quote on the HBCS blog (Holman-Broadman is the publishing arm of LifeWay):

“The Bible includes concepts that may be uncomfortable or may require more study to fully understand,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “This example shows more Bible readers prefer to see the literal translation rather than glossing over such concepts in a translation.” (italics mine)

See his prejudice showing through? If it’s not a literal translation, then it has to be glossing over concepts. To “gloss over” is a phrasal verb which means to “[t]ry to minimise the importance of something,” or as another dictionary defines it, “to give a false or deceptively good appearance to: to gloss over flaws in the woodwork.” He thinks if it’s not literal, then it’s giving you, minimally, something less than it should. Such a bias is shocking to read, coming especially as it does from their research director, and one suspects the research will now be used to tout their HBCS, which, by the way, is, as far as I have seen, quite a good version.

(Note: I recognize that the translators or publishers of the HBCS don’t position it as a word-for-word literal version; they invented their own phrase, “Optimal Equivalence,” to describe their approach, which neatly sidesteps the hot buttons in translation. They claim, ingeniously, to have the best of both worlds: “This process assures maximum transfer of both words and thoughts contained in the original.” If that’s true, then they have made the discovery of the ages in biblical translation.)

In other words, the research, by its very language, is slanted. Who wouldn’t prefer “total accuracy,” as if that were possible?

I’m no prophet, but I suspect LifeWay will use this to say, you prefer word-for-word but want simple to understand, so buy the HBCS which gives you both.

#bible-poll, #bible-translation, #bible-versions, #lifeway-research